Author Visit Brings Writing Closer to Home

Author's Advice to students: revise revise revise
Posted on 03/08/2018
Author Roland Smith at NBJHRoland Smith has traveled to more countries than he can count and written more young adult books than he can name. During Mr. Smith’s visit Thursday, March 8 to Northbrook Junior High, he did offer one number for students to consider: 4. As in, there are four steps to writing a book: research, planning, writing and revision.

Smith’s recent book on the underground world of New York City, “Beneath,” is one the most popular books of the year among students. After sixth-grade students interviewed Smith through social media as part of class, the school arranged for his visit.

Smith visited Thursday for an all-school assembly and smaller group discussions with sixth-grade language arts classes. He explained all books follow a similar four-step writing process: Research takes twice as long as writing; before you start writing, plan out your story; start writing a “sloppy copy” rough draft; and, finally, revise revise revise.

“The secret to writing is revision,” he said. “Don't whine when your work gets marked up (by editors or teachers)” because they make your work better.

For 20 years, Smith was a biologist working with endangered species and building zoos before becoming a full-time writer. Smith visits up to 100 schools a year, and whether he’s traveling to schools or researching his next book, he always carries a notebook and writes every day.

“I like how he said anybody can be a writer, you just have to work at it,” said sixth-grader Anna after a workshop in the library.

Jacob, also a sixth-grader, created a trailer for one of Smith’s book as a summer project. He can relate to how the author writes in a paper notebook instead of an electronic device. “I know I often get distracted when I try to do anything on a computer or device that has social media. So I think typewriters are a lot better,” Jacob said.